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April 8, 2014 8:32 AM   Subscribe

The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown is a nine-part series posted by sci-fi author and statistician Michael F. Flynn to his blog last year, covering the historical conflict between heliocentrism and geocentrism, with a special focus on Galileo. They are based on an article (pdf) by Flynn which originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Analog.

* Part I: The Great Ptolmaic Smackdown
* Part II: Down for the Count
* Part III: The Great Galileo-Scheiner Flame War of 1611-13
* Part IV: The Down 'n Dirty Mud Wrassle
* Part V: Here's Mud in Yer Eye
* Part VI: Comet Chameleon
* Part VII: Time and Tides Wait Not
* Part VIII: Trial and Error
* Part IX: From Plausible to Proven

Flynn also regularly posts to Livejournal.
posted by zarq (10 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this post, zarq!

You really won't believe what a godsend this is for me... We're talking about Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in my class right now, specifically this bit where he claims:

"Much of the seventeenth century's notion of what it was to be a 'philosopher,' and much of the Enlightenment's notion of what it was to be 'rational,' turns on Galileo's being absolutely right and the church's being absolutely wrong."

Most philosophers I respect think that Rorty is a nut...but I don't think Rorty is a nut. His positive, quasi-hermeneutic view of reason doesn't work...and he does like to make extravagant claims...but he has lots of interesting things to say...

At any rate, and whether or not the claim in quotes above is true, it throws us back to the details of the dispute, and few of us remembered much in detail about the anti-Copernican arguments. Fact is, though--as this post shows--no matter how firmly committed you are to something that might be called an Enlightenment conception of reason, you've got to admit that there were some pretty good arguments for geocentrism... Which indicates that Rorty's wrong in the above quote. (I think what he really wants to say there is that the allegedly bad old view of philosophy that he's against was committed to a clear and unequivocal demarcation criterion that establishes a bright clear line between science and non-science... )

Anyway, thanks!
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:56 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Relevant: Capt. Janeway promotes geocentrism.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:03 AM on April 8


I feel this is relevant.
posted by charred husk at 9:06 AM on April 8


As is this.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:09 AM on April 8


This is great.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:15 AM on April 8


Fists O'Fury: "His positive, quasi-hermeneutic view of reason doesn't work...and he does like to make extravagant claims...but he has lots of interesting things to say... "

That's always been my impression of him, too. He's fascinating to read, even though I usually shake my head "no" repeatedly while doing so.:)

Glad you found Flynn's posts interesting!
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on April 8


MrMoonPie : Relevant: Capt. Janeway promotes geocentrism.

Watching that trailer for what will most certainly be a wildly frustrating movie where hard science astrophysicists are taken out of context and people will be convinced that when experts in cosmology are saying "there is still a lot we don't understand" to be equivalent with: "there is a chance that we are so clueless that the sun might orbit the earth. Who knows? It's not like we ever sent any probes out that could tell us one way or another!"

Blech.

But the best part of that trailer, the part that made me giggle hopelessly: the scene at around 1:10, where they have the camera pull away from the city in a wide swooping, and climbing circle? I'm pretty sure I've seen that before, and it was in a little movie called Sin City (you know, exactly the kind of film that anti-science fundies would really appreciate.)
posted by quin at 12:11 PM on April 8


"Much of the seventeenth century's notion of what it was to be a 'philosopher,' and much of the Enlightenment's notion of what it was to be 'rational,' turns on Galileo's being absolutely right and the church's being absolutely wrong."

I'm suspicious of this claim. It sounds anachronistic, and also seems to lump every 17th and 18th Century Rationalist in with the most anti-clerical writers, like Voltaire. Newton, for example, was far indeed from thinking that there was nothing in religious revelation.
posted by thelonius at 12:20 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


zarq: That's always been my impression of him, too. He's fascinating to read, even though I usually shake my head "no" repeatedly while doing so.:)

Yep, right there with ya man. Right there with ya.

thelonius: I'm suspicious of this claim. It sounds anachronistic, and also seems to lump every 17th and 18th Century Rationalist in with the most anti-clerical writers, like Voltaire. Newton, for example, was far indeed from thinking that there was nothing in religious revelation.

That's an interesting point. If I were Rorty...I mean, not just responding on his behalf, but, if I thought like Rorty...I might say: Newton was not a Newtonian...or, at least, not, like we are, someone who took/takes Newton to be a representative of the modern conception of reason...

But I'm not sure that actually answers your point.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:08 PM on April 8


I've been meaning to read "The Mirror of Nature" for years, if, for nothing else, to satisfy my curiosity as to why Rorty aroused so much hostility among philosophy professors. I'm familiar with the basic idea, he thinks that the whole assumption that philosophical problems are problems about minds representing reality is wrong, and then gives a kind of neo-pragmatist version of Heidegger as an alternative.

I can think of two reasons, on top of actual philosophical rejection of his position. First, Rorty was a made man in analytic philosophy, in the early part of his career. At Princeton, in the 50s and 60s, I think. The inner sanctum. And some of those people hate him as a traitor. They hate him like some jazz critics hate "Bitches Brew", they think he's just a sell-out and a traitor, and a charlatan. Second, he became a big sensation at the same time as conservative academic people were in high alarm at the theory-izing of the English department, and Rorty likes Derrida and discusses Derrida as a Real Philosopher, whereas most American philosophy professors share, oh, John Searle's opinion about Derrida.
posted by thelonius at 5:17 PM on April 8


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